Conflict of Interest policy

Statement of policy

It is the policy of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) that its staff and others acting on its behalf, in particular members of Council and the Research Advisory Committee, have the obligation to avoid ethical, legal, financial, or other conflicts of interest and to ensure that their activities and interests do not conflict with their obligations to the Institute or its welfare.

1.1  Members of Council and the Research Advisory Committee are prohibited from applying for research grants under the AIATSIS Research Grants Program.
1.2  Members of Council and the Research Advisory Committee are prohibited from participating in any decision-making processes as to whether a manuscript that is jointly or solely authored or edited by such a member should be published.

 Definition of conflict of interest

Conflict of interest is considered to exist in situations where:
(i)  An individual’s organisational position provides either personal benefit beyond the declared benefits arising from that position or an opportunity for undue influence in a decision relating to another person’s benefit
(ii) An individual, while occupying more than one position, which positions involve the exercise of power or influence, affects outcomes in one position which are of direct and personal benefit to her/him as an occupant of another position.

Implementation - Council and Research Advisory Committee

3.1 AIATSIS' conflict of interest policy is declaration driven.
3.2 A member of the Research Advisory Committee or Council who has a material personal interest in a matter that is being considered, or is about to be considered, must disclose the nature of the interest as soon as possible after the relevant facts are known
3.3 Following disclosure, a member of the Research Advisory Committee or Council may not be present during any deliberation by the Committee or Council on the matter and must not take part in any decision on the matter
3.4 Where the conflict of interest is not in the nature of a material personal interest, the Research Advisory Committee or Council will determine whether such a member may take part in any deliberation or decision on the matter
3.5 Where a person declares her/his potential conflict of interest or leaves the room to avoid being placed in a situation of conflict of interest, the absence of that person from the proceedings of the meeting shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting
3.6 The Principal or other designated person may provide advice and counsel to individuals on any situation of potential conflict of interest.

Implementation – AIATSIS staff

4.1 AIATSIS staff members are prohibited from improperly using their positions to gain an advantage for themselves or another person or to cause detriment to AIATSIS.
4.2 AIATSIS staff members are prohibited from using information gained from their positions in AIATSIS to gain an advantage for themselves or another person or to cause detriment to AIATSIS.

May 2004


Conflict of interest – explanatory guidelines

In order to illustrate circumstances where conflict-of-interest may apply the following extracts have been drawn from the Australian Research Council Guide for Assessors and the Australian Public Service Code of Values.

Australian Research Council

“The Australian Research Council addresses conflict of interest in its Guide for Assessors of grants. The examples below are used to illustrate specific academic situations that might lead to such conflict.
You may believe that you have a potential conflict-of-interest, for example by:

  • Being employed by, or holding an honorary or adjunct appointment at an institution hosting one or more of the Research grant applicants
  • Being a current or recent past (normally 5 years) principle supervisor of the higher degree of an applicant
  • Standing to benefit in a material way from, or being associated with funding of, the research program or a closely related program, either personally or through your employer
  • Being a current or recent collaborator with one of the applicants (normally you should not have published with an applicant within the past 5 years), or
  • Having a close, personal relationship (including enmity) with an applicant.

Any fact that militates against you offering an unbiased, fair assessment of an application on its merits is considered the basis of a potential conflict of interest.”

Australian Public Service

The Australian Public Service addresses the issue of conflict of interest in Chapter 9 of its published Code of Values. The Report of the Committee of Inquiry: Public Duty and Private Interest (1979), known as the Bowen Report, sets out the principles that underpin public servants' obligations to disclose and manage conflicts. The report recommended a code of conduct, which was later endorsed by the Government. The code is set out below:

  • An office-holder should perform the duties of his office impartially, uninfluenced by fear or favour
  • An office-holder should be frank and honest in official dealings with colleagues
  • An office-holder should avoid situations in which his private interest, whether pecuniary or otherwise, conflicts or might reasonably be thought to conflict with his public duty
  • When an office-holder possesses, directly or indirectly, an interest which conflicts or might reasonably be thought to conflict with his public duty, or improperly to influence his conduct in the discharge of his responsibilities in respect of some matter with which he is concerned, he should disclose that interest according to the prescribed procedures. Should circumstances change after an initial disclosure has been made, so that new or additional facts become material, the office-holder should disclose the further information.
  • When the interests of members of his immediate family are involved, the office-holder should disclose those interests, to the extent that they are known to him
  • When an office-holder (other than a Member of Parliament) possesses an interest which conflicts or might reasonably be thought to conflict with the duties of his office and such interest is not prescribed as a qualification for that office, he should forthwith divest himself of that interest, secure his removal from the duties in question, or obtain the authorisation of his superior or colleagues to continue to discharge the duties
  • An officeholder should not use information obtained in the course of official duties to gain directly or indirectly a pecuniary advantage for himself or for any other person
  • An office-holder should not:
    • solicit or accept from any person any remuneration or benefit for the discharge of the duties of his office over and above the official remuneration
    • solicit or accept any benefit, advantage or promise of future advantage, whether for himself, his immediate family or any business concern or trust with which he is associated from persons who are in, or seek to be in, any contractual or special relationship with government
    • except as may be permitted under the rules applicable to his office, accept any gift, hospitality or concessional travel offered in connection with the discharge of the duties of his office.
  • An office-holder should be scrupulous in his use of public property and services, and should not permit their misuse by other persons
  • An office-holder should not allow the pursuit of his private interest to interfere with the proper discharge of his public duties.